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Los Angeles Employment Law Blog

Would you recognize retaliatory actions against you?

Your employer's written policies and procedures may encourage you to report any negative behaviors or actions you see or experience, but that doesn't mean that the individuals involved will take any complaints well. Your superiors are only human, and they may not appreciate you "rocking the boat" by coming forward.

In response to your actions, you may start to see changes in the way you are treated. The question is whether the actions of your superiors reach the level of retaliation. If you wonder if they are retaliating against you, it may help to know what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes as a violation of your rights in this area.

Do workplace relationships constitute sexual harassment?

There are countless stories of romances that start in workplaces here in California and around the country. Depending on the circumstances, many of those relationships have a positive outcome and many do not. These workplace relationships may seem very simple on the surface and even harmless, and while many of them are, there are those that actually involve sexual harassment. So how do employers and employees tell the difference? Experts are pointing to the recent departure of fast food chain McDonald's CEO as a cautionary tale.

McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook says that he had a romantic relationship with an employee that was completely consensual. It is not exactly clear whether that was true, though Easterbook has admitted that the relationship was a mistake. McDonald's has a policy that prohibits managers from entering into relationships with any employees under them, whether that employee reports to the manager or not. For its part, the fast food chain recently created a program for employees to teach them how to spot sexual harassment and what to do about it.

California wage theft case comes to a settlement

Many people stay in the same job because they love what they do. Others may stay in the same job because they worry that they will not be able to find anything else. Unfortunately, for those in the latter group, staying in positions with poor working conditions, including wage theft, is not unusual.

It was recently reported that a California case involving wage theft came to a settlement. The case has been ongoing for three years and was filed after workers for a chain of residential care homes came forward about their compensation concerns. Apparently, the workers were forced to work nearly 90 hours a week and were paid only $4 an hour in some cases.

University of California can now be fined for wage theft

Employees depend on their employers for regular and consistent paychecks in order to pay their expenses. If those paychecks are delayed, it may not seem like a big deal to the employer, but it can wreak havoc on an employee's life. Most employers are subject to wage theft penalties if they carelessly and thoughtlessly fail to issue pay checks on an expected schedule. Until recently, the University of California was exempt from these penalties due to the fact that it is a public entity. However, California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a law that the penalties will apply after UC failed to make proper payments to employees, with disastrous consequences for many of them.

The problem began back in 2018 when UC changed to a payroll system known as UCPath. Many student workers weren't getting their proper paychecks due to complications with the new system. Workers claimed that they didn't receive pay checks on time, didn't get their full pay checks and some said they lost benefits. When workers filed claims, it often took several weeks or even a few months for them to be paid. All the while, UC didn't incur any penalties for their failure to pay.

Home-care workers with wage claims say elderly patients abused

Employees of all kinds deserve fair wages for their work. Though most employers are happy to properly compensate their workers, there are many who fail to do so. Interestingly, some employees who make a wage claim for inadequate pay also report that their employer mistreats clients of the business. This can be seen in the recent case here in California where a home-care business accused of failing to properly pay its employees has also come under fire for neglecting elderly residents.

Advocates for the workers and employees looked at the licensing records of several places that offer housing and care to the elderly. They found that several of these businesses stole money from workers, violated labor laws and abused residents. One operator stands accused of not paying over $221,000 to his employees. Workers say an elderly woman with dementia living at the facility had rat bites and bedsores, and that her injuries were entirely preventable.

Retaliation still a fear of Google employees

Though most workplaces in California are welcoming when it comes to the concerns of employees, there are those companies that may discourage employees from speaking out. In extreme cases, there are some workplaces that will actively punish employees for attempting to call out bad practices at their companies. There are laws in place meant to protect employees from retaliation, but it still happens. This is what many employees allege about tech giant Google, which has come under fire for similar accusations in the past.

Late last year, several employees staged a walkout in protest of how Google was handling accusations of sexual misconduct. The employees alleged that the company retaliated against those who brought instances of sexual harassment and misconduct to light. They claimed when they brought these concerns to appropriate departments that the company demoted them, removed them from certain projects and even moved them to other less advantageous projects.

Understanding your right to seek accommodations at work

Your disability does not define you. In fact, you probably focus more on what you can do rather than on what you cannot do. You have the education, experience and skill to do the job for which your employer hired you, but you may need one or two modifications that will allow you to perform any non-essential duties the job requires.

Fortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against you based on your disability. If you are otherwise qualified to perform the essential duties of a job, an employer may not refuse to hire you, promote you or allow you to remain in a position. In fact, the law compels your employer to provide reasonable accommodations to allow you to perform your duties at work.

Detective awarded over $1m for whistleblower claim

Most employees in California are fortunate enough to be treated well by their employers. However, when an employer retaliates against an employee who witnesses wrongdoing, the worker may not know exactly how to resolve the situation. One detective from out of state was recently awarded over $1 million in connection with his whistleblower claim. This was after he alleged that state police punished him for contradicting the circumstances around the death of a deputy.

The detective was working in crash reconstruction and testified that a fatal crash that killed both a civilian and a deputy was the fault of the deputy. He claimed that the deputy was driving recklessly and traveling at a high rate of speed before the impact. He also said that state police changed reports to eliminate findings that the deputy was driving unsafely and include the blood-alcohol measurement of the civilian. That was despite the detective saying that the civilian's blood-alcohol content was not a factor in the crash.

Workplace discrimination: Phlebotomist awarded $1.5m

Employees should never have to feel unsafe at work, but unfortunately, many of them do. Some may feel as though they are judged for being a certain religion, sexuality, race or other protected class. This is what one phlebotomist at the University of California Los Angeles alleges happened to her, when she says she faced workplace discrimination due to her race.

According to the former employee's lawsuit, she says she experienced racially motivated discrimination, harassment and retaliation. She claims that another employee used a particular racial slur to refer to her and used another racial slur in conversation on many occasions. She also says that other co-workers said derogatory things in regard to her skin color and threw away or altered blood specimens she collected. She also says that UCLA fired her despite the fact she had never been reprimanded for anything.

"Criminal Minds" camera operator alleges sexual harassment

When people hear about sexual harassment in the workplace, they often assume the victim is a woman, but that isn't always the case. Men can also be targets for unwanted sexual attention while on the job, and they have the right, just like women, to not be treated that way. One male camera operator on the set of TV show "Criminal Minds" recently filed a suit here in California, showing how important it is for men to speak up when they experience sexual harassment. It can sometimes be difficult, but it is equally important as when a woman does so.

The man was originally hired to be a second assistant camera operator for "Criminal Minds" back in 2011. He alleges that the director of photography, a supervisor, harassed and battered him several times a week over the course of his career. The camera operator says his supervisor touched him sexually, screamed at him and threatened to fire or demote him. He also alleges that his supervisor prevented him from taking time off to care for his ailing daughter.

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